It's Always Sunny: How Hamilton inspired the risky season 12 premiere
Some people go home and listen to the Hamilton soundtrack nonstop after seeing the Broadway show. But Charlie Day went home… and wrote a musical episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
The episode, titled “The Gang Turns Black,” features the main fivesome waking up as black versions of themselves (played by black actors) in a world where (mostly) everything is communicated via song. But it wasn’t always that way: Day tells EW someone pitched the idea of a regular episode featuring the gang “watching The Wiz in the middle of the electrical storm and then turning black.”
“It was one of those ideas you say because you think it’s actually too extreme,” he says. “Like, ‘We can’t do this.’ And then the more we talked about it, we were like, what if we did do it?”
So they went for it — to poor results at first. That initial idea — an electrical storm interrupts their The Wiz viewing, spurring the ensuing events — remained, but the script just wasn’t working the way Day and co-creators and costars Rob McElhenney and Glenn Howerton had hoped. It was only after Day found himself inside the room where it happens when he thought to make it a musical episode, like season 4 standout “The Nightman Cometh.”
“I had recently seen Hamilton on Broadway, and when Lin-Manuel Miranda was taking his bow, he pointed at myself and [wife Mary Elizabeth Ellis, who plays the Waitress on Sunny], and he said, ‘Holy sh–, Charlie and the Waitress!'” Day recalls, laughing. “Afterward, he said he was a big Sunny fan, and he said the ‘Dayman Song’ was stuck in his head while on stage.”
“I was so moved and inspired by his work, and I was just thinking, ‘Gosh, I’d love to write some music or a show,'” Day continues. “So when the script wasn’t working, I had an idea.”
After checking with McElhenney and Howerton, Day wrote the songs that would later make their way into “The Gang Turns Black.” From there, it was all about figuring out how to “walk that fine line of, let’s do some social commentary without trying to be too preachy.” Some of the issues touched on during the episode include the Black Lives Matter movement, police brutality, racial profiling, and other hot-button topics.
But It’s Always Sunny is no stranger to taking risks — they kicked off the entire series with pilot “The Gang Gets Racist” and later donned blackface in a season 6 episode where they recreate the Lethal Weapon franchise — which is something Day says makes him proud, “especially as we become a more increasingly sensitive world.”
“Sometimes that’s a good thing, and we’ve seen a lot of good come out of that, and sometimes it’s a bad thing, and there’s a tendency for people to become sort of addicted to outrage,” he adds. “I’m thankful that we’ve been able to continue to make these big swings and that we have a platform for doing it and that we have an audience that understands our intentions.”
See their latest big swing when season 12 premieres Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET on FXX.